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  1. Abstract Aim

    Theoretical, experimental and observational studies have shown that biodiversity–ecosystem functioning (BEF) relationships are influenced by functional community structure through two mutually non‐exclusive mechanisms: (1) the dominance effect (which relates to the traits of the dominant species); and (2) the niche partitioning effect [which relates to functional diversity (FD)]. Although both mechanisms have been studied in plant communities and experiments at small spatial extents, it remains unclear whether evidence from small‐extent case studies translates into a generalizable macroecological pattern. Here, we evaluate dominance and niche partitioning effects simultaneously in grassland systems world‐wide.


    Two thousand nine hundred and forty‐one grassland plots globally.

    Time period


    Major taxa studied

    Vascular plants.


    We obtained plot‐based data on functional community structure from the global vegetation plot database “sPlot”, which combines species composition with plant trait data from the “TRY” database. We used data on the community‐weighted mean (CWM) and FD for 18 ecologically relevant plant traits. As an indicator of primary productivity, we extracted the satellite‐derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from MODIS. Using generalized additive models and deviation partitioning, we estimated the contributions of trait CWM and FD to the variation in annual maximum NDVI, while controlling for climatic variables and spatial structure.


    Grassland communities dominated by relatively tall species with acquisitive traits had higher NDVI values, suggesting the prevalence of dominance effects for BEF relationships. We found no support for niche partitioning for the functional traits analysed, because NDVI remained unaffected by FD. Most of the predictive power of traits was shared by climatic predictors and spatial coordinates. This highlights the importance of community assembly processes for BEF relationships in natural communities.

    Main conclusions

    Our analysis provides empirical evidence that plant functional community structure and global patterns in primary productivity are linked through the resource economics and size traits of the dominant species. This is an important test of the hypotheses underlying BEF relationships at the global scale.

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  2. Irwin, Rebecca (Ed.)
  3. Abstract Here we provide the ‘Global Spectrum of Plant Form and Function Dataset’, containing species mean values for six vascular plant traits. Together, these traits –plant height, stem specific density, leaf area, leaf mass per area, leaf nitrogen content per dry mass, and diaspore (seed or spore) mass – define the primary axes of variation in plant form and function. The dataset is based on ca. 1 million trait records received via the TRY database (representing ca. 2,500 original publications) and additional unpublished data. It provides 92,159 species mean values for the six traits, covering 46,047 species. The data are complemented by higher-level taxonomic classification and six categorical traits (woodiness, growth form, succulence, adaptation to terrestrial or aquatic habitats, nutrition type and leaf type). Data quality management is based on a probabilistic approach combined with comprehensive validation against expert knowledge and external information. Intense data acquisition and thorough quality control produced the largest and, to our knowledge, most accurate compilation of empirically observed vascular plant species mean traits to date. 
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  4. Human land use threatens global biodiversity and compromises multiple ecosystem functions critical to food production. Whether crop yield–related ecosystem services can be maintained by a few dominant species or rely on high richness remains unclear. Using a global database from 89 studies (with 1475 locations), we partition the relative importance of species richness, abundance, and dominance for pollination; biological pest control; and final yields in the context of ongoing land-use change. Pollinator and enemy richness directly supported ecosystem services in addition to and independent of abundance and dominance. Up to 50% of the negative effects of landscape simplification on ecosystem services was due to richness losses of service-providing organisms, with negative consequences for crop yields. Maintaining the biodiversity of ecosystem service providers is therefore vital to sustain the flow of key agroecosystem benefits to society. 
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